6 Ways to Choose Humility

By Nathan Gwilliam

6 Ways to Choose Humility

This a Sunday episode of Monetization Nation. 

The Pride of Lord Voldemort

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, pride is one of the defining characteristics of many of the characters, but it leads to the downfall of Lord Voldemort. Voldemort is so proud, he can’t imagine not living forever. In his quest to prolong his life, he destroys the lives of others. In the end, his pride causes him to underestimate Harry, who is able to defeat him.

Voldemort only lived to about 71 years old—well under the life expectancy of wizards; Dumbledore lived to 116. If it weren’t for his pride, Voldemort could have lived much longer. 

Though our pride likely won’t lead to our death, it could lead to the destruction of many things including faith, relationships, or our business. To combat pride we must choose humility.

Pride Towards God and Our Fellowmen

Ezra Taft Benson was a former US Cabinet member as Secretary of the Interior, and religious leader. He explained how pride works. He said, “Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.’” (See KJV Philip. 2:21)

As entrepreneurs, there may be times when we want something that is against God’s will. I’ve learned that I always want to be where God wants me to be, even if that means taking another job, moving my family, or starting over again. One of the scariest things for me is to be somewhere God doesn’t want me to be, or to be doing something God doesn’t want me to be doing. 

Another form of pride is against our fellowmen. Benson explains, “We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.”

Pride gets no _Blog

As C. S. Lewis said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” 

The nature of entrepreneurship and business relies heavily on competition, and healthy competition can be a good thing. It can push us towards our finest content or best products. But if the competition consumes us and we’re obsessed with beating our competitors, or if it makes us feel that we are better than someone else, it can hurt us and our business because we miss out on what is most important—people, not money.

Benson said, “Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.”

Many years ago I had a talented young employee who took a job with my company. Before I made an offer, I asked her what her desired salary was. She told me. I felt her request was fair based on her experience, and I made her a job offer matching exactly what was asked for, and I gave her a strong title with the word “director” in it. It was more money than she had ever made in her life. Then, not long after she started, I gave her a raise. 

One day she found out that someone else in our company with “director” in their title was making more money than she was. She didn’t understand the situation surrounding that other employee, who had more experience, who I had recruited away from another company and relocated to a different state with his family, and who was doing a completely different role with much more financial upside for my company. My companies have merit-based pay and not pay based on your title. However, the young employee quit on the spot. She had been satisfied with her compensation until she found out someone else, in a completely different situation that was unknown to her, was making more. 

The Story of Daedalus and Icarus

The famous Greek myth of Icarus is a great example of how pride can have dangerous consequences. Daedalus, the father of Icarus and brilliant inventor, angered King Minos who then imprisoned he and his son. To escape, Daedalus uses twine, feathers, and wax to build large wings for himself and his son. 

Daedalus warns his son that they will have to fly at a medium height to avoid the sun melting the wax and the seawater below dampening the wings. Icarus listens at first, but soon he flies too high and the wax on his wings melts, causing him to go toppling into the sea. 

Icarus thought he could handle flying higher than his father said he should. Pride can have very real and serious consequences if we don’t keep it in check or replace it with humility.

How to Combat Pride

How do we make sure we don’t let pride have free rein on us? Benson said, “The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness. It is the broken heart and contrite spirit.”

He quoted a portion of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Recessional”, saying: 

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart.
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Benson explained we can either choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Let us choose to be humble. So, how do we humble ourselves?

6 Ways to Choose Humility

Here are some of the ways Benson lists for how we can choose to be humble:

1. Lift Others Up – “Conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are.”

“Pride is ugly,” Benson said. “It says, ‘If you succeed, I am a failure.’” But the first way we can choose humility over pride is by lifting others up. This can be hard, especially with those who are our competitors. We don’t have to do anything crazy like telling potential customers that their product is better than ours, but we can do simple things.

For example, we can congratulate them on a successful product launch or we can invite them onto our podcast and learn from each other’s experiences.  Seeing and valuing them as the humans they are and treating them with kindness and respect lifts both the competitor and me.  

2. Accepting Criticism – “Receiving counsel and chastisement.”

There was once a teacher and spiritual man who was focusing on a particular mantra. He heard of a hermit nearby and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to teach. He went to the island where the hermit lived.

They shared some tea and the teacher asked about the hermit’s spiritual practice. The hermit told him the mantra he repeated to himself all the time—the same mantra the teacher had been studying. The teacher was thrilled to learn it was the same one, but he noticed the hermit was pronouncing it incorrectly. The teacher taught him the correct pronunciation, and the hermit humbly accepted the correction.

Soon after the teacher left. As he was sailing away, he was startled to see the hermit walking on the water out to meet him. The hermit said, “Will you tell me that pronunciation again? I want to make sure I’m saying it correctly.” The teacher said, “You clearly don’t need it.” The hermit insisted, and the teacher told him again. As he walked across the water back to the island, the hermit repeated it to himself over and over (Source: Medium).

The teacher in this story assumed he knew better than the hermit because of his education. In sharp contrast, the hermit was willing to accept new teaching even though he was in tune with his spirituality enough to walk on water. 

Accepting criticism is a sure-fire way to diminish pride, and the hermit accepted the teacher’s correction without a second thought. 

The important part is how we receive criticism. There’s a balance between rejecting all of it and accepting all of it; however, we should always look at criticism with an open mind, wanting to improve when appropriate. 

3. Forgive – “Forgiving those who have offended us.” 

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (KJV Matthew 18:21-22)

Then came peter

Forgiveness is often mistaken as a feeling, but it is actually a choice. Just as we can choose to be humble, we can choose to forgive. It’s hard to go to someone who’s wronged us and forgive them but we have to remember that it doesn’t have to mean we’re saying what they did was okay or that we’re going to trust them again.

4. Serve – “Rendering selfless service.”

While pride has us focus on ourselves, service allows us to think about others first. It takes our attention away from our successes or failures and forces us to be concerned about someone else and their welfare.

We can perform service in our personal lives and in our businesses. There are many companies that donate a portion of their profits to charity or match donations of customers or employees. If we’re just starting out with our business, we may not have the resources to do things like this, but we can still give back in our own way through something like encouraging our team to volunteer.

5. Change – “Confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God.”

Most people don’t like being wrong, and they especially don’t like admitting they were wrong. It takes a lot of humility to admit and confess we’ve messed up. But admitting we were wrong is the first step to becoming better and to not making the same mistake again.

Our teams deserve explanations and apologies when we do something wrong. It will help us grow closer to them and build trust with each other. In turn, they won’t be as afraid to come forward and work toward resolution when they make a mistake.

6. Choose God – “Loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.”

The last way we can choose humility is to put the Lord’s will before our own. If we strive to do this, we will naturally do many of the other items in this list because He asks us to do things like lift others, forgive, and serve. If we are putting Him and His will first, it will be easier to combat pride and choose humility.

Key Takeaways

Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Pride can cause the destruction of many things that we treasure.

2. Pride gets pleasure out of having more of something than someone else. . . . It is the comparison that makes us proud.

3. One of the antidotes for pride is humility.

4. We can either choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.

5. We can choose to be humble by lifting others, receiving criticism, forgiving, serving, admitting our mistakes, and putting God’s will above our own.

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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